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Sunday, April 12, 2015

[you just need to breathe, to feel my heart against yours now]

I turned 30 recently and leading up to my birthday, people kept asking me how I was feeling about turning 30 and was I freaking out about it, etc. I'd joke about it, but I felt no concern about it at all. I was grateful to be turning 30. I am alive when so easily, for various medical reasons and mental health reasons (last year more than ever), that might not have been the case. I'm proud of the fact that I'm 30 years old, despite not having a husband or kids or whatever everyone seems to think is the normal thing I should be having by this age.

What date did "freak me out" this year, is today. I have been thinking about this date for many years in this year for a really long time. On this date 15 years ago, I had major surgery on my face and jaw. I spent 6.5 hours under a general anaesthetic. A month later when the swelling was gone and some of the bruising was gone (I was black and blue quite some weeks after I went back to school, but mostly not on my actual face), I looked in the mirror and thought, "This is what I look like. This is me." And I had no idea how I felt about that. It wasn't a huge change and I looked "better" to myself, but my face was different. And that is something no one else can understand how scary that can be when you're barely 15 years old unless they've been through it. It's part of the reason I love my work as an audiologist, because I see those kids and they have a professional in their lives (and they always have 5-10 of them that they're seeing all the time) that really, really understands what they're going through.

The reason this year's "anniversary" of that operation (which really, is actually only one of 19 operations I've had and 25+ general anaesthetics) has been on my mind for a long time is that it's 15 years. I was 15 years old when I had that operation. I had the face I was born with for 15 years (and three weeks). I've now that had this face for 15 years now. So from now, I have had this face for longer than my real one. I read some of my journals recently while I was packing them away into a box to move house soon and I read something on 12th April 2010 that said, "Imagine five years from now. How weird will it be knowing I've had this face as long as I had my real face for?" Yet, how can I look in the mirror every once and a while and still think, "Is that really me?"

But it is me. And I love my face. It's been through a lot of stuff and caused me a lot of crap, but I wouldn't be me without it: the face that I was born with or the face that I have now. Both are equally me.

After everything that happened in the last half of 2013 (both the happiest and scariest period of time in my life) and early 2014 (just the most devastating part of my life), that operation feels like nothing to me. But I know it wasn't. It was a decision I made for myself and I never regretted and something I'm also incredibly proud of.

All of my medical problems and history led me to feeling quite comfortable in hospital the very first time I visited a man I loved/love more than anyone when he'd just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he said that it helped him feel calm because he'd never been in hospital before and still didn't know how things went.

Lots of things to be grateful for.